Greetings from NYC! It has almost been 2 months since I arrived in the Big Apple. Here's my experience so far in a nutshell:
What was your first impression of New York?
Months before I even hopped on a plane, I envisioned myself gleefully singing “Welcome to New York” aloud when I step off the plane. LOLNO. I will forever remember my first 100 minutes in NY as the time I got cheated $100. I was also surprised at how dirty but beautiful NYC is.
So what is NY like?
I have been told to not expect anything while on exchange. Nevertheless I’ve always had a preconception that New York is a beautiful and super atas kind of place, where everybody is fashionable, all the food will be great and all the people in the financial district will be cute young men in suits.
I was expecting a Gossip Girl Blair Waldorf but it was more How I Met Your Mother Ted Mosby, where everyone is somehow always looking for love (Tinder).
but without a doubt, I love New York. I love weaving through crowds in Time Square, riding the bus/walking over the bridge to Brooklyn, the beautiful city skyline, the numerous museums to visit, the city's rich history, enjoy subway entertainment and then proceed to avoid eye contact when buskers come to me with their tip bowls, like a true Asian. Its an amazing place to be.
but the same reason why I love NYC may also be the same reason why I hate it. There is so many people, so many options, everyone is so competitive and sometimes it becomes a lonely place. Everyone is fighting to survive, nobody has time for you. I remember my first week in NYC when someone in the subway tripped me and I fell down along with my 20kg luggage. Without batting an eye, the man just hurriedly rushed off, just like everyone in that crowded subway station. So many times I see the elderly trying to carry things down the stairs, and nobody offers to help. I can’t blame them though, its a big city with all kinds of people. I’ve offered help, and most of the time I’ve been rejected because nobody likes to trust a stranger with their stuff.
|Dominique Ansel cronuts|
One of the things people know about NY is the food scene. I'm going to point at the Insider and Buzzfeed for feeding us viral videos of pretty looking food. But that's all to it: It looks pretty. I must admit that there is good food here. Just not all the ones that are heavily advertised on social media and have a cult like following. Like come on, the latest in thing is “Do!” Cookie Dough and the line snakes across the street and people queue up to 3 hours on a weekend. I managed to buy one after waiting for 30 minutes in a blizzard, excited to taste what it really is only to be disappointed that its JUST COOKIE DOUGH. Err you know, 5 spoonfuls taste good, but eat a whole scoop and you’ll feel so sick of sugar. What I'm trying to say here is that New York is so big, and has so much that it should be more well known for. Not its hyped up food.
Then again, New Yorkers just really love to queue up for things.
Remember the Supreme Brick and the Supreme Metrocards?
Here's one of the best meals I've had at an American Diner:
Pastrami sandwich from Katz Delicatessen. This is one of the few meals I've had that really lived up to its hype. There's no queue at all for this place, but maybe its because a sandwich costs a whopping $19
How has exchange been?
Exchange has been the best experience of my life. I won’t lie and say it is always a bed of roses and I’m always out having fun. There are days when I feel helpless in a strange land with no friends 9317 miles from home, and then there are days when I just can’t wait to explore new boroughs. I've learnt so much by pushing myself out of my comfort zone every single day.
The moment I dread the most is when I have to form assignment groups and everyone in my class already knows each other. Like yes, everyone in the engineering knows everyone. Which is surprising to me because at Unimelb, I hardly ever get to know people in my tutorials. It's also a great thing because people instantly recognise that I'm not from NYU, and they try to get to know me. Everyone's extremely friendly and nice at Uni (or should I say college).
Nevertheless, I remind myself every day how lucky I am to be here. NYU doesn't send/receive any non-NYU exchange students and I seem to be the only person here that is not from NYU international. Not forgetting that NYU is the 3rd most expensive university in the USA. Their locals pay twice the fees I pay as an international student in Australia. Ammenities (like gym, shuttle buses etc) and printing credits are included in the fees so for someone like me, who is not paying NYU. It's super duper worth it. Also, I get to sit a free bus over the Manhattan bridge every morning, and I get to walk home over the Brooklyn bridge every evening. That's a privilege.
The diversity of this city
There is SO many different kinds of people. I live in Chinatown, Manhattan with the rest of the Asians in NYC. Sometimes I head out, trying to buy some groceries and I would not understand a single word of Asian. Not only are there so many different dialects in Chinatown alone, a lot of the elderly don't understand mandarin (and have limited English). How ironic to be facing a language barrier in Chinatown LOL. New York City is a melting pot of culture. I love to watch everything around me change whenever I cross into a different neighbourhood.
I got the chance to spend Chinese New Year in NYC, and boy, it was hectic. The massive crowds, confetti, and lion dance on every street. It's like everywhere you turn, there is a dong dong qiang going on.
NYU vs Unimelb
Wow, after coming here I've realised how good we've got it in Melbourne. Like please, your student union FIGHTS for something as trivial as lecture recordings and a large portion of students never ever complets their tutorial work/readings or even attend lectures (DAZ MI RIGHT THUR).
At NYU, your marks get deducted for missing class more than 5 times. I've received a warning email for missing class twice and I didn't even skip them intentionally. Like that has not happened since high school. I don't get to use my phones or even laptops in some classes, and you actually get called on if you do. There is HOMEWORK due EVERY WEEK. Finals only account for 30% (all you assignment lovers will love this) and the large portion is for pop quizzes, or weekly homework and major assignments. I didn't expect to come here to LEARN, but I'm actually learning way more than all my years at Unimelb.
In fact, this is for all you Civil Engineering students in Unimelb. There's lab classes every single week here. And remember all the soil experiments we did? Where we basically did nothing, and when the lab assistant shows us everything and posts the results online after the lab? Well here (and probably other well known universities around the world), we actually have to go back to the lab on the weekends/another day to get our soil readings. Sorry for the shade but Unimelb, you sure need to step up your engineering game.
Americans speak differently
Its true. I still don't know how warm/cold 50F is, but I heard its decent temperature. All my classes here quote inches and feet so that was a major adjustment for me. I also tend to use words that cashiers would pause on.
For example the other day I was at a cafe and I asked for a serviette. The barista had to think for a second before handing me one and saying "you mean a napkin?" LOL.
I also say "takeaway cap" a lot back in Australia. When I said that here, the barista looked at me and went "Are you a barista? We say cappuccino to-go here". A different store looked at me and went "I'm sorry, we don't do flavoured coffee here" and I had to remind myself to say "Cappuccino to go" zzzzz.
Or the time when I went to the grocery store and I wanted to put the capsicums in my bag. The cashier couldn't understand me. "They're called bell peppers my dear"
There are some things that are very similar to Melbourne though.
There is alot of artistic people here, as well as hipsters. There's also a lot of flea markets, reminding me of all the beautiful Melbourne art markets.
The weather is temperamental.
Just like Melbourne, NYC has pretty crazy weather. One day it will be 22C, warm and sunny. Few days later its snowing. Went out in my first blizzard when school was cancelled. Initially I thought it was just going to be thick snow, no big deal right. LOLNO. The blizzard was so bad that you literally can't see much in front of you.
The day after the blizzard was great though. My friend and I went for a walk in Central Park and the Upper East Side.
Ya this is the place that I imagined NYC to be. Fancy, clean and beautiful. LOL now I know that's only in the Upper East Side where everything has to be 2 times more expensive than the Lower East Side.
It has been a great 2 months. I'm still getting used to living in New York City. It's a massive change from small town Sitiawan and laid back Melbourne but it's an exciting one. Ever since coming on exchange, I've got questions from juniors asking me if it was worth it / where they should go. My advice for anyone thinking of going on exchange is
Yes, go on exchange and go somewhere you don't know anyone.
Uh, obviously go somewhere you like too.
Yes it gets lonely, yes it gets challenging but oh boy, it is such a rewarding experience. Definitely strive to go at least once in your University life. You ain't getting any younger.